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This Hour: Latest West Virginia news, sports, business and entertainment

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1,100 layoffs planned at Alpha coal mines in W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Alpha Natural Resources expects to lay off 1,100 workers at 11 West Virginia surface coal mines by mid-October, with the company citing dismal markets and federal regulation.

An Alpha news release says the company notified employees Thursday afternoon that it expects to idle mines and related facilities.

Alpha says the mines produce about 75 percent thermal coal for power generation, and 25 percent metallurgical coal for steel production.

The company cited weak domestic and international coal markets and federal limits on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

In the past three years, the Bristol, Virginia-based company says it has laid off 4,000 employees and idled 60 mines and 35 million tons of production.

Alpha is one of the country's biggest coal suppliers. It also has mines in Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.


Company cited for fatal W.Va. cell tower collapse

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - Federal officials have cited an Oklahoma company after two cellphone towers collapsed in West Virginia and killed three people.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it cited S and S Communication Specialists Inc. for two serious violations stemming from the February incident at Clarksburg.

Officials say the company was modifying a cellular communication tower when the tower fell and weakened a second tower, which also collapsed. Two company employees and a volunteer firefighter died. Two other people suffered serious injuries.

OSHA assessed a $7,000 penalty for each violation. The company has 15 business days to respond.

No one at the company could be reached Thursday night. In February, a company official said S and S was saddened by the accident and was cooperating with investigators.


W.Va. gets fed funds for mental health services

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia is receiving nearly $1 million in federal funding for mental health services.

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell said the money will help support four health centers in the state to establish or expand behavioral health services.

Officials say the new funds will help nearly 29,000 in West Virginia.

Health centers will use the money for efforts such as hiring new mental health professionals and adding mental health and substance use disorder health services.

The Affordable Care Act expanded mental health and substance use disorder benefits for about 60 million Americans nationwide, including more than 322,000 West Virginians.


W.Va. board to consider scholarships, degree

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission will consider nursing scholarships and a bachelor's degree in engineering management at Bluefield State College.

The commission is meeting Friday in Charleston.

The nursing scholarship program would be open for a 30-day public comment period if passed and would be forwarded to a legislative committee for further action. A bill approved during the legislative session would establish the program for nurses who agree to practice in hospitals and other health-care institutions or teach in state nursing programs in West Virginia. Awards from $1,000 to $15,000 would be set.

The new degree at Bluefield State would be effective this year. It already offers other engineering degree programs, but students currently receive no formal education in the field of managing engineering projects.


W.Va. to honor highway cleanup volunteers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia officials are planning to recognize thousands of volunteers who pick up litter along the state's roadways.

The West Virginia departments of Environmental Protection and Transportation say they'll host the 18th annual Adopt-A-Highway Volunteer Appreciation Day Picnic Saturday at Snowshoe Resort in Pocahontas County.

More than 40,000 volunteers representing in excess of 1,400 organizations keep more than 3,300 miles of West Virginia roads litter free.

Officials say volunteers remove more than 4 million pounds of trash from state highways each year. They also recycle about 10,000 pounds of glass, 5,000 pounds of plastic and 8,000 pounds of aluminum annually.


Reward offered in W.Va. horse strangling case

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - The Humane Society of the United States is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information related to the strangling of a horse in Martinsburg.

Authorities say two suspects believed to be male teenagers were seen running away from a pasture where the horse was found last week with a tow rope around its neck.

The Humane Society says the retired polo horse that was blind in one eye was found with the strap so tight around her neck it had to be cut off with a razor.

The horse named Catnip was later euthanized because of her injuries.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Berkley County Sheriff's Office at 304-267-7000 or the Berkley County Crime Solvers at 304-267-4999.


Memorial set for Va. Guard soldiers killed in 2004

WINCHESTER, Va. (AP) - The Virginia National Guard is holding a memorial ceremony for two soldiers killed in action 10 years ago.

Officials say a service is planned Friday night in Winchester in honor of 39-year-old Staff Sgt. Craig Cherry and 36-year-old Sgt. Bobby Beasley.

Cherry was a native of Winchester and Beasley was a native of Inwood, West Virginia. Both served in the Guard following years of U.S. military service.

They were members of Virginia National Guard's 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Beasley and Cherry were killed when an improvised explosive device destroyed their vehicle Aug. 7, 2004, during a patrol in eastern Afghanistan.

The deaths marked the first combat deaths of a mobilized Virginia Guards Soldiers since the end of World War II in 1945.


Company cited for fatal W.Va. cell tower collapse

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - Federal officials have cited an Oklahoma company for safety violations following the collapse of a pair of cellphone towers in West Virginia that killed three people.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it has cited S and S Communication Specialists Inc. for two serious violations stemming from the February 2014 incident in Clarksburg.

Officials say the company was contracted to perform structural modifications to an existing cellular communication tower.

The tower collapse seriously injured two, killed two of the company's employees and a volunteer firefighter.

The company was assessed a $7,000 penalty for each of the two violations. It has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet informally with officials or contest the findings.


Ex-Alderson prison worker sentenced on sex charge

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) - A former worker at the Federal Prison Camp in Alderson has been sentenced to 10 months in prison after pleading guilty to charges that he touched a female inmate's breasts.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin says 48-year-old Jeffrey S. Walton of Ronceverte was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Beckley.

Walton pleaded guilty in April to abusive sexual contact with a female federal inmate. He was acting as the inmate's work supervisor when the incident occurred last year.

He is no longer a Bureau of Prisons employee.


Coal dust limit to try to combat black lung

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The Obama administration's push to reduce black lung disease by limiting coal dust in mines is taking effect.

Initial requirements of the U.S. Department of Labor's coal dust rule become effective Friday. It was proposed in 2010.

New requirements include increased dust sampling in mines and citations when coal operators don't take immediate action for high levels.

In February 2016, better monitoring equipment will be required. In August 2016, the allowable concentration of coal dust will drop.

Ohio-based Murray Energy and the National Mining Association sued separately over the rule.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says black lung has killed more than 76,000 miners since 1968.

It is an irreversible and potentially deadly disease caused by coal dust exposure, where particles accumulate in the lungs.

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